Premier Doug Ford and the provincial government is coming under fire for apparently sitting on a huge amount of money designated for Ontario's COVID-19 support and response.
A report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO), an independent financial watchdog, says the government had $12 billion sitting in various COVID-19 support accounts as of September 30, 2020.
Ford's critics say he's withholding the money, while Ford says the province is simply being prudent about what they're spending.
Combined remaining balance in the Health Fund, SPJF and Contingency Fund on September 30, 2020
The FAO previously reported that Ontario had $9.3 billion available from the same accounts in August 2020, which means the province earned $2.7 billion more than they spent that month.
That isn't to say the government isn't spending money on COVID-19.
The report notes that spending in the last few months was up $5.3 billion from the same time last year, "which largely reflects government spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Sara Singh, the Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP Party, said that $12 billion could be making a difference in the lives of Ontarians right now.
“This money could be providing paid sick days, helping small businesses with the rent, investing in more testing and contact tracing, setting up more hospital capacity and isolation centres, and giving our kids smaller, safer classes,” said Singh in a press release.
“At this point, it looks like Ford is just waving the white flag in the fight against COVID-19, and waiting for a vaccine," she wrote.
Defending himself in Question Period on December 8, Ford said only $2.6 billion of the $12 billion figure is actually available — the rest has been "allocated" — and they have up until March 31, 2021, to spend it.
Ford says his government is being "prudent fiscal managers" of the province's money and holding the billions "in contingency."